Recuerdos de la Alhambra by Francisco Tárrega

Classical guitar


Recuerdos de la Alhambra is, really, almost the standard guitar piece. It's a great piece of music. It's lovely.[1]

 --John Williams

Recuerdos de la Alhambra is the classical guitar world's Stairway to Heaven. It is perhaps the most played solo in the guitar repertoire.

Francisco Tárrega composed Recuerdos de la Alhambra in 1896 after visiting the Alhambra in Granada while under the patronage of Conxa Martínez.[2] The work is a tremolo study following an AABBABC structure. You will often hear it performed in a shortened form using an AABBC structure, either because of time constraints associated with the performance or to avoid boring the audience (or more likely, the guitarist).

Before attempting to play the piece, you should already possess a well-practiced tremolo. Don't try to learn Recuerdos de la Alhambra as a means of learning tremolo technique and don't attempt to play it before you're ready. Scott Tennant told a story about making the mistake of agreeing to teach Recuerdos to a student before the student was ready.[3] The student ended up quitting the guitar in frustration. You have to be aware of your abilities as a guitarist and recognize what skills you have to develop further before attempting a new challenge.

I also suggest making sure you use a relatively new set of strings before learning the song. Dead strings will kill your tremolo. Finally, make sure your nails are at whatever the right length is for you. Nails that are too short or too long will interfere with a steady tremolo. I say these things because I've made the mistake of trying to play Recuerdos with dead strings as well as too short or too long nails.

Like Lágrima, this transcription is drawn from one or more versions made available by the Biblioteca Nacional de España or Rischel and Birket-Smith Collection of Guitar Music at the Danish Royal Library's National Digital Sheet Music Archive. I've taken the unusual approach of trying to capture note durations accurately. In the time the song was composed, guitar notation was often imprecise, requiring the guitarist to infer when a note was meant to sound longer than notated. For example, you'll often see the second voice in Recuerdos notated entirely as eighth notes. If you actually play it that way, it doesn't sound as full. Instead, I've indicated as much as possible via a third voice when the second voice note should sound longer. Also, I've notated the tremolo more accurately. Tremolos are usually written as a sequence of 16th or 32nd notes, when in actuality the last note in the three-note sequence often has twice the value. This becomes obvious when you enter a traditionally notated tremolo into a MIDI program and play it back. The computer will precisely play the notes for the exact duration and invariably it won't sound right. After you lengthen the trailing tremolo notes that sound longer in reality, the computer playback sounds natural. I don't find the attempt at greater notational accuracy has made the score less readable.

To avoid a non-interpretive pause when shifting your left hand from the A chord in the ninth position at the end of measure 13 to the inverted A7 chord in the seventh position at the beginning of measure 14, keep finger 2 on the second string as you move it from the tenth fret to the eighth fret. At the same time start placing finger 3 in position to strike the opening C♯ bass note on the sixth string. As you strike the C♯, place finger 1 on the A on the fourth string. As you strike the A, place finger 4 on the E on the third string.

The key to avoiding non-interpretive pauses when facing awkward position changes is to move your fingers into place as you are playing instead of pre-positioning all the fingers before you play the first note.

Revision History

Respaced staff systems for improved legibility.


Changed end ritardando and dynamics in final measures to match those in the 1908 Idelfonso Alier edition.


Changed measures 15 and 16 to use first position for D minor. The change allows the open D to sound for the entire duration of measure 15 and places the left hand in position for measures 17 and 18.


Removed half-barre from measures 37 and 56.


Removed half-barre from measures 38–39 and changed fingering accordingly. Measures 38–42 are the same as measures 46–50 and may as well be played the same for mnemonic facility. There's no reason to continue the half-barre from measure 35 when you can position your fingers where they'll need to be for measure 40.

[1] John Williams: The Seville Concert and the Film Profile, 1993.

[2] Conxa is the Catalan spelling. The name is Concha in Castilian.

[3] I believe he tells the story in a video version of his Pumping Nylon book.